ITTY BITTY KITTY OWNERS – WHEEZY, SNEEZY OR BREEZY?
NEW INFORMATION! See Red text below…
Sometimes science research comes along and you really don’t know what to believe.
Take allergies to pets, and particularly cats, for example. There are a few things we know with confidence:
- That most pet allergies are not to the pet, or to the hair, but to the dander. Dander is that amazing mix of dead skin cells, saliva and dust (including dust mites) that floats off all living beings – that fine dust that you can see when there’s a ray of sunlight in the cage. It’s a particular issue in birds because dander can also carry disease.
- That most pet allergies develop over time. You can start off a happy healthy pet owner and then develop and allergy that seems to get worse and worse. That’s because your immune system learns to over-react over time.
- Not all pet allergies are permanent. Take the pet away and some people revert to a less-allergic state when they are exposed to pets. Some people can go to the doctor and get “desensitised” with controlled exposure to the allergen.
- Allergies are usually not genetic, but they do run in families. If you had allergic parents (hay fever, eczema, or asthma) you are more likely to be allergic yourself – regardless of what triggers your allergy.
- Generally speaking, having an environment that is too clean in the first 1-2 years of life is associated with a higher risk of life threatening allergies in particular, and allergies in general.
- Pet allergies are rarely life threatening. You might sneeze, itch, or your skin swell up and go blotchy. People with severe asthma are at risk, but anaphylaxis is virtually unknown in pet allergy like you see to eggs or seafood.
- Many people successfully control pet allergy just by controlling the pet dander. For dogs that may mean a professional groomer and frequent baths, for cats that may mean a daily wipedown with a damp cloth as well as the above.
But what about pets and babies?
Here’s where the science gets messy.
There are a number of studies that clearly show that exposing babies to dogs and cats in the first 12 months of life reduces allergies to pets in later life – and a new study that says exactly the opposite. Predictably, each side of the “pro pet” and “anti pet” debate is quoting the studies that suit them!
It’s fair to say that at the moment, the balance of scientific papers is that owning pets in the first year of your life is likely to have beneficial effects – except where you have highly allergic parents – but it’s hard to state this as a fact until better studies are done on this aspect of pet ownership.
Check out the headings – you can see the bias of the researchers even in their headlines for reporting!
Now there’s some new information, just published that looks at all of the studies available. It concludes that where there is no family history of allergy, keeping a dog around the time of birth and afterwards reduces the risk of allergy developing in children. Where there is a family history of allergy, there appears to be no benefit or disbenefit from having a pet when children are babies and more research is needed
SO WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE BELIEVE???
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